Youth justice campaigner steps up fight for reform

More must be done to prevent young people who offend ending up in the criminal justice system, according to the Youth Justice Board’s newest board member.

Children’s Society chief executive Bob Reitemeier, who was appointed to the board last week, told 0-19 that more must be done to recognise that those who end up in the system are often the hardest to reach and have often had traumatic experiences in the past.

“We are too quick to move to punishment without looking at reasons,” Reitemeier said. “There are reasons and undercurrents to offending – trauma, obstacles, oppression. Once in the system you’re in a no-way-out situation – it’s the revolving door of offending and re-offending.”

Reitemeier said he hoped to use his new position to further his campaign to raise the age at which children can be deemed criminally responsible.

“At 10, the age of responsibility is far too young,” he said. “The Children’s Society continues to campaign on this issue, and as a YJB board member I have an opportunity to influence and develop an appropriate environment for young people in secure accommodation.”

Reitemeier is also keen to see fewer young people in custody, and argues that under-16s in particular should only be locked up in very specific circumstances.

“This is a critical time for the whole youth justice system,” he said. “We need to look at how we can provide effective alternatives to custody as well as to decrease offending and re-offending.”

Reitemeier added that the over-representation of black and ethnic minority young people in the youth justice system was a “clear injustice” that needed to be addressed.

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